Walter Barton Executed For Sexual Assault And Murder

Walter Barton was executed by the State of Missouri for the sexual assault and murder of a woman

According to court documents Walter Barton would force his way into the home of eighty one year old Gladys Kuehler who would be sexually assaulted, her throat slit and stabbed more than fifty times

Walter Barton would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death

Walter Barton would be executed by lethal injection on May 19 2020

Walter Barton would maintain he was innocent

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When Was Walter Barton Was Executed

Walter Barton was executed on May 19 2020

How Was Walter Barton Executed

Walter Barton was executed by lethal injection

Walter Barton Case

The victim, who was 81 years old, was the manager of a mobile home park in Ozark, Missouri, and lived in a trailer she owned there. On the morning of October 9, 1991, Carol Horton, another resident of the park, went to the victim’s trailer to assist her because she was infirm and unable to move about without the use of a cane.   Horton left for a while to shop for the victim and to retrieve her mail and returned at about 11:00 a.m. When Horton saw the victim at that time, the victim was sitting on a daybed she kept in her living room, and she looked like she was “doing okay.”

Around noon that day, Walter Barton came to Horton’s trailer.   Walter Barton regularly frequented the park, but Horton had not seen him in a week, and appellant told her he had been living in his car.   He was in a “happy-go-lucky” mood, talking and “dancing around” to radio music in Horton’s trailer.   He stayed at Horton’s until around 2:00 p.m., when he said he was going to the victim’s trailer to see if the victim would lend him $20.00, and he returned about 10-15 minutes later, still in a good mood.

Between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m., several people had contact with the victim at her trailer.   Teddy Bartlett and his wife, and Sharon Strahan, all former residents of the trailer park, visited the victim around 2:00 p.m. and stayed until sometime around 2:45.   While they were there, Dorothy Pickering, who co-owned the trailer park with her husband, Bill, and who was at the park with her husband cleaning a trailer, stopped by the victim’s trailer to pick up some rent payments.   A man named Roy also stopped by to return a fan and a magazine to the victim.   In addition, at about 2:30, Debbie Selvidge, the victim’s granddaughter, called the victim and spoke with her briefly.   The visitors all left when the victim said she was not feeling well and was going to take a nap.

Meanwhile, Walter Barton told Horton that he was going back to the victim’s trailer, and left sometime around 3:00.   As Bartlett and Strahan left, Strahan noticed appellant standing at the driver’s side door of a pickup truck parked near the victim’s trailer talking to someone inside the truck.   Shortly thereafter, around 3:15 p.m., Bill Pickering called the victim’s trailer because his wife said the victim wanted to talk to him about someone moving into the park.   A male voice answered the telephone, and Pickering asked to speak with the victim.   The man hesitated, and then said, “She’s in the bathroom.”   Pickering then told the man who he was and asked to have the victim call him back.

Around 4:00 p.m., about an hour after he left Horton’s trailer, appellant returned and asked to use her restroom, which she permitted.   After a while, Horton noticed that Walter Barton had been in there for a long time, and she had never heard the toilet flush, so she went to check on him and saw him at the sink.   He said he had been working on a car and was washing his hands.   All told, appellant spent about ten minutes or so in the bathroom.   Horton also noticed, however, that appellant’s mood had changed, and now, instead of being jovial as he was before, he was distant and seemed in a hurry.   He asked her if she would take him to the “Fast Track” to get his car, but she said she could not, because she was going to the victim’s trailer.   At that point, appellant said, in a “very strong,” definite voice, “No, don’t ․ Ms. Gladys is lying down taking a nap.”   Horton went anyway, knocking on the victim’s door around 4:15 p.m., but there was no answer, and Horton then left the park to get her car washed.

In the meantime, Selvidge called the victim at 4:00 p.m., as the two watched the same television program together everyday while talking on the telephone.   When there was no answer, Selvidge went to the trailer to check on her grandmother.   She knocked for some time, but there was no answer, and she noticed that there were no lights on, which was unusual, because the victim always left the porch light on when leaving the trailer.   Selvidge then left the park to seek help from her mother.

At about 4:30, Horton returned home and went back to the victim’s trailer to check on her, but again received no answer to her knocking.   Between 6:00 and 6:30, Selvidge arrived back at the park and went to Horton’s trailer, asking about the victim and telling Horton she had been trying to call the victim since 4:00.   The two of them then returned to Selvidge’s mother’s house to try to call the victim again, and when they still were unsuccessful, they went back to the park and asked appellant, who had been at a neighbor’s trailer, to help knock on the door again.   The three took turns knocking on the door and calling out the victim’s name, and appellant went over to the end of the trailer where the victim’s bedroom was located and knocked on the side of the trailer.   There still was no response so they decided to contact the police.

Horton and Selvidge then drove to the nearby town square, flagged down an Ozark police officer, and led him back to the park.   After unsuccessfully attempting to enter the victim’s trailer, the officer called for a locksmith, and then left to take care of another call.   A short time later, the locksmith arrived and opened the front door, and Selvidge, Horton, and appellant entered the trailer.

Once inside, they called the victim’s name, but received no answer.   Selvidge started to walk down the hallway leading to the victim’s bedroom when appellant said, “Ms. Debbie, don’t go down the hall.   Ms. Debbie, don’t go down the hall.”   Selvidge noticed that the victim’s clothes were in the bathroom by the stool and that the toilet lid was up, which was unusual.   She then turned on the lights in the victim’s bedroom and screamed as she found the victim, “practically nude,” lying on the floor between her bed and closet.   The victim had been stabbed numerous times, with her throat cut ear-to-ear and with her intestines eviscerating from some of her wounds.   Selvidge started to bend down to touch the victim, but Horton, who had followed Selvidge down the hall to the bedroom, told her not to do so.   Selvidge then went back into the hall, pushed past Horton and appellant, who was following Horton, and went back to the living room.   Appellant said to Horton, “Let me see,” and looked over Horton’s shoulder into the bedroom at the victim, but he never got close to the body or the blood in the bedroom.   Appellant did not get upset upon seeing the victim, but remained calm, showing no emotion, and when he went back into the living room, he “comforted” Selvidge, telling her that he was “so sorry.”

The police officer soon returned to the trailer, and after seeing that the victim had been stabbed, he cleared the scene and called for help.   After paramedics arrived, the officer interrogated those persons present.   He asked Walter Barton if he had seen the victim that day, and appellant told him that he had seen her between 2:00 and 2:30 that afternoon when he had asked her to lend him $20.00.   He said that the victim told him she would lend him the money, but would have to write a check, which she would do later in the day.   Appellant claimed that this was the last time he had been there.   However, appellant later spoke with a Highway Patrol investigator and told him that he was the one who answered the telephone call that Bill Pickering made at 3:15 that afternoon.   Because that call occurred between when the victim was last seen alive and when she was found dead, the officers took appellant into custody.

At that point, the officer noticed what appeared to be blood on the elbow and shoulder of appellant’s shirt, and Walter Barton responded that he had gotten the blood on him when he slipped while pulling Selvidge away from the victim’s body.   Selvidge, however, reported that she had not gone in the room past the victim’s feet, that she had no blood on her clothes, that nobody had fallen in the room, and that appellant and Horton had remained behind her while she was in the room.   Police also noticed that neither Selvidge nor Horton had blood on them, that the victim’s blood on the floor was “pretty well dried,” as if it had been there for a while, and that there was no wet blood to slip on where the witnesses were standing in the room.

The investigation of the scene also revealed that there was blood on the sink of the victim’s bathroom and on a table in the bathroom.   The victim’s checkbook was found.   Although the victim regularly entered every check she wrote in her check register, there was no entry for check # 6027-that check was missing.   Several knives also were seized from the scene, including one that was part of a set that was cleaner than the others and facing a different direction in the block, and another knife that was later found in a drainage ditch.   Although none of these knives were positively identified as the murder weapon, the examiners did not exclude any of those knives as the murder weapon.

Three days after the murder, a young girl was cleaning up trash along a nearby highway with a group from her church when she found the missing check, # 6027, folded up and discarded in a ditch.   The check was dated the same day of the murder and made payable to appellant for $50.00.   Handwriting analysis confirmed that the victim had written everything on the check.

Tests conducted on appellant’s clothing revealed that there was human blood on his shirt, blue jeans, and boots, and DNA tests conducted on the blood from appellant’s shirt showed that it was the victim’s blood.   A blood spatter expert testified that some of the blood found on appellant’s shirt, as well as two spots on appellant’s jeans, were consistent with stains created by a “medium-to-high-energy impact,” meaning the blood was ejected from the source by a blow or “transfer of energy” and not by simply rubbing up against already-present blood.

An autopsy conducted on the victim revealed that she was stabbed well in excess of 50 times, including being stabbed twice through her open right eye and once in the left eyelid, twice in the neck, eleven times in the left side of her chest, three times in the right chest, four times in the abdomen, twice to the back of the left hand (characterized as defensive wounds), twice to the back of the left arm, twenty-three times in the back, and three times in the left flank.   There were at least two large slash wounds across her neck, one of which contacted the bone.   There were also two X-shaped slash wounds to the abdomen, through one of which the victim’s small intestine protruded.   Internally, the victim’s left lung collapsed, and one of her ribs fractured from the force of the attack.   The cause of death was exsanguination due primarily to the wounds to her neck as well as the numerous other stab wounds.   There was also at least one blunt force injury to the victim’s head, and some bruising and injury to the victim’s genital area that led examiners to the conclusion that the victim was sexually assaulted.

At some point after the murder, Walter Barton was incarcerated in the Lawrence County jail, where inmate Katherine Allen was serving as a trusty, serving meals and doing laundry.   From time to time, she and Walter Barton argued, and on more than one occasion, appellant threatened her, asking her if she knew what he was in jail for and saying that he would kill her “like he killed that old lady.”

Walter Barton did not testify, but called four witnesses:  A resident of the trailer park who testified that she had dinner with appellant on the night of the murder and did not see blood on him;  two Highway Patrol criminalists-one of whom testified that a hair found on the victim and one found in the bedroom did not exhibit the same characteristics as appellant’s hair-and the other who could not positively identify one of the seized knives as the murder weapon;  and a Highway Patrolman who testified to “inconsistencies” in Katherine Allen’s testimony regarding her statements to him.

During the penalty phase, the state presented evidence that Walter Barton had been convicted of two prior felony offenses:  1) assault with intent to kill with malice aforethought for robbing a gas station at gunpoint and then assaulting the female clerk by hitting her over the head with a full paint can;  and 2) assault in the first degree for assaulting another female grocery store clerk during another attempted robbery.   The state also recalled Debra Selvidge who presented victim impact testimony.   Walter Barton called two friends, whom he originally met through a prison ministry, and his wife, whom he met through an inmate “pen friend organization,” all of whom testified about the effect executing appellant would have on their lives.

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